Due in large part to inclement weather, the summer beach season got off to a bit of a slow start in the Cape Region. However, the weather has rebounded, the beaches have been crowded since late June, and even with the crowds, local lifeguards have been able to keep beachgoers safe.
Dewey Beach Patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman said generally speaking, it’s been a very mild summer in terms of saves and rescues. Given all the crowds and families Dewey is seeing, it’s definitely been lower than expected, he said during a July 26 interview.
“There’s been nothing that’s atypical or out of the ordinary,” said Fritchman.
The Dewey Beach Patrol provides emergency medical services to all of the town during the summer, and Fritchman said even those numbers are down from years past.
“We’re not looking for more, either,” said Fritchman. “A lot of the stuff we put in place is done proactively to prevent things from happening.”
Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks, who also oversees the city’s beach patrol, said July has been busy in Rehoboth Beach, but basically on par with last year. The beach patrol is fully staffed, and the junior lifeguard program is so popular some kids have been turned away, he said during a Rehoboth Boardwalk and Beach Committee meeting July 28.
Through July 24, Banks said, there had been roughly 250 emergency medical technician responses, which is an increase over last summer. However, he said, some of that increase is due to better documenting responses.
It’s better for the beach patrol books because they weren’t getting the credit they deserve, said Banks, using minor cuts and the use of bandages or jellyfish stings as examples of things that have gone undocumented in the past. The guards were just getting those things taken care of, but not counting them toward the overall numbers, he said.
Delaware State Parks Beach Patrol Capt. Bailey Noel, who is in his first season as captain but has been working as a lifeguard in Delaware for 15 years, said they’ve seen a lot more saves than last season, but that has a lot to do with having triple the lifeguards on duty. There was a real effort to increase the number of lifeguards this year, and people go to the beaches where there are lifeguards, he said.
All of the beaches overseen by the state parks lifeguards have their own quirks, said Noel. The beach at Cape Henlopen State Park is much smaller than the one at Towers Beach, so it gets much more crowded, he said.
In summers past, following a round of beach replenishment, there have been reported increases in serious injury because of the slope of the beach, but none of the officials are saying that’s an issue this year. Also, there have been minor cases of rip currents, but so far nothing that’s overwhelming or consistent.
There have been some flash rips that just pop up for a short time, but then they disappear, said Noel.